No. 2 is No. 1 for Tide

The SEC's hottest receiver and the league's finest cornerback are on a collision course.

It's a safe bet that Tennessee's Lucas Taylor will be covered by Alabama's Simeon Castille during a good portion of Saturday's game in Tuscaloosa. Taylor leads the conference in receiving yards (103 per game) and ranks second in receptions (6.8 per game). He is coming off an 11-catch, 186-yard receiving effort last weekend against Mississippi State.

Castille, a 6-1, 193-pound senior, was first-team All-SEC as a junior last season, and deservedly so. He ranks first among the Tide's active players in career tackles (151), career interceptions (12) and career pass breakups (30).

Early indications are that Castille is headed for a banner senior season. His six pass breakups this fall rank among the SEC leaders and his first two interceptions of 2007 were recorded the past two weeks. The first was a game-saving pick in the end zone on the final play of a 30-24 defeat of Houston on Oct. 6. The second came in last weekend's 27-24 defeat of Ole Miss.

Castille's individual brilliance has captured the attention of Tennessee's players and coaches, especially the Vols' senior quarterback.

"It all starts with Simeon Castille," Erik Ainge said this week. "He's a great football player. When you come to the line of scrimmage, you've got to find No. 2 every time."

Alabama head man Nick Saban specializes in secondary play, so Castille isn't the only Tide defensive back with skills.

"They have a lot of good players around him," Ainge said, "and they put them in good positions to make plays. I haven't seen a lot of (Saban's) past secondaries but I know this one can play."

Trooper Taylor, who coaches Tennessee's receivers, knows it, too.

"Their cornerbacks are really tough and aggressive, so we've got our work cut out for us," the Vol aide said. "It's going to be a big challenge for these receivers."

Tide defensive backs have 10 interceptions this fall and are limiting opponents to a mere 52.7-percent completion percentage. By comparison, Tennessee's defensive backs have five interceptions and are allowing opponents to complete 55.5 percent.

One reason Bama's defensive backs are doing so well is that they're getting lots of help from the pass rush. The Tide has 14 sacks thus far, whereas Tennessee has just eight.

"They're aggressive in their blitz package ... all the same things Nick's done since I've been playing against him," Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said. "They force you to execute, force you to make plays. They're going to contest plays all day long."

The Vols' head man concurs.

"They're really good up front, with their linebackers and their secondary," Phillip Fulmer said. "Getting nine sacks in the last two weeks certainly got our attention. As you look at them, they are a really good Alabama defensive football team."

Especially when No. 2 is on the field.

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